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Family Graces Reader's Guide

Full Circle

Magendie’s opening epigraph is a Shakespearean quotation: “The wheel is come full circle, I am here.” How does this quote pull together the Graces Trilogy?

 

Family

VK told Gary how “Rebekha made us kids her own, and along with Dad had our brother Bobby. ‘We became a family full of our pasts and our futures.’” Is this how blended families work? By acknowledging the past and the future?

 

Alcoholism

Virginia Kate says, “in the befores and most of all in the afters, momma slurped up the booze, that mighty river of want for her, a never-ending river of need.” Discuss how alcoholism destroys families.

 

Second Chances

How are the characters given second chances? Who takes advantage of those second chances?

 

Family Stories

Grandma Faith’s diary, what she called her “secret words:” “The stories needed telling. Even those that hurt. Stories needed to be told to keep them real. Stories needed to be told to find the truths. Stories needed to be told so the ones after her could learn from them.”

 

“I have told the story of our lives,” Virginia Kate says at the end of the novel. What does she mean by this statement? How has the once reticent little girl told the stories? Remember that one of her skills is photography. Grandma Faith understood Virginia Kate “would be the one. The storyteller who would one day set free the words, the stories of their lives.”

 

Once alive only in Virginia Kate’s imagination, Fionadala becomes a real horse in flesh and blood by the conclusion of Magendie’s novel. She almost appears wished into being by Virginia Kate. Discuss the power of our wants manifesting into reality.

 

Healing

What is Magendie saying about the power of forgiveness?

 

Fire

Grandma Faith’s body burns. Katie Ivene’s house is struck by lightning and burns to the ground. Katie herself is cremated. What is Magendie saying with her use of fire?

 

The Supernatural

Grandma Faith often feels her dead father’s presence. Both Virginia Kate and Adin feel Grandma Faith’s presence.

Faith’s spirit witnesses Luke’s death from cancer then calls to Virginia Kate for her to make the stories real by the telling.

 

Miss Darla’s letter to VK speaks of signs: “A clearing away to make for the new.”

 

“I stand, there in Momma’s old kitchen, and wonder why the ghosts have gone quiet. I shake it off. Shake it off and away, and get back to the work of storytelling.”

 

How does the use of the supernatural affect the story?

 

Abuse

Faith often realizes she should have left Luke and his abuse. However, she also realizes “I’d not have all my children and my grandchildren if I had run off.” Magendie writes of Faith, “Her life had not been so bad, not when she knew the things and people she’d created . . . Her children and grandchildren came of her union with Luke. How could she deny that?”

 

The shame of letting the world know about the abuse: “To let people know how she lived, shame. To ask for help, shame.”

 

Discuss the cruelty of choice and of shame.

 

Race Relations

Discuss how race and heritage simmers under the surface of the story.

 

Mothers and Daughters

How does Magendie turn mother-daughter relationships on their heads?

 

(Reader’s Guide written by Mary Ann Ledbetter, writer and teacher, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)